SO FAR, SO GOOD ... Iberville takes steps against swine flu

Deidre Cruse

Local schools and government agencies have been taking precautions against the what is being called the N1H1 virus, a potential pandemic that by Monday had affected some 200 Americans and 1,000 worldwide, and taken 20 lives.

In Louisiana, five cases were confirmed in Lafayette Parish, and one each in Ascension and Orleans parishes, all at schools, the state Department of Health and Hospitals reported Sunday.

One Iberville Parish student showing symptoms was sent home from Dorseyville Elementary School Monday, but the child’s doctor diagnoses an upper respiratory infection, not the flu, said Supervisor for Child Welfare and Attendance William Bujol.

Bujol said schools are practicing good hygiene, primarily by asking students to cover their mouths with tissues when they cough and by having the children wash their hands several times a day and use a hand sanitizer before they go to lunch lunch.

Health experts consider frequent hand washing to be the easiest way to protect against the virus.

School attendance was high last week, the supervisor said. It was down on Monday, he said, but probably because of bad weather, including tornado warning posted for the parish from 7-8 a.m.

Last week, the U. S. Coast Guard notified Dow Chemical that three members of the crew of a ship that docked at Dow on April 28 had exhibited flue-like symptoms, Stacey Chiasson of Dow Public Affairs confirmed. She said the ship was loaded and departed the Dow dock around 11:40 p.m. that day.

The three sailors were tested for the N1H1 virus, but there was no word on whether they were confirmed as cases of the flu, according to Chiasson and Iberville Emergency Preparedness Director Laurie Doiron.

As a precautionary measure, the two Dow employees who serviced the ship were given antiviral drugs, Chiasson said, noting that both returned to work the next day and have not exhibited symptoms.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. said Hunt Correctional Institute notified the parish last week that its two prison work crews would not work outside the prison for two weeks to protect the prison population from H1N1.

Iberville Parish employs one crew for a grass-cutting detail and another for litter pick-up.

“The state [Department of Corrections] has required two weeks’ sabbatical till it clears up,” Ourso said. “They don’t need inmates to catch something and bring it back to the prison. That doesn’t surprise me.”

Emergency Preparedness Director Doiron said the state is advising people who experience flu symptoms to seek medical care immediately.

“The symptoms of swine flue in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue,” according to the Louisiana Office of Public Health Infectious Disease Epidemiology Section.

Doiron said a strategic stockpile of antiviral drugs is being distributed from the federal to state governments. Once Louisiana receives its supply, the state will set up “emergency response positions,” she said.

The Iberville Parish Health Unit will dispense medication to emergency responders, the director said.